We are advised to be authentic. We are told to ‘be true to our self’. Socrates taught his students to ‘Know thy Self’. But who is this self and how do we live as this true, authentic self?
We are told that living our authentic, true Self means that if we are a mechanic and want to be an artist, becoming an artist is more authentic. If we are living a straight life and we are gay, being authentic means coming out and living as a gay person. In this respect, being authentic is a matter of what do we identify as and are we living that identity.
What is it that we identify as? First we identify as this body. We also identify as our thoughts or mind. We identify as our feelings or emotions. We identify as our roles, concepts, beliefs and patterns.
The body, the mind, the feelings and circumstances are always changing. We age, we create new thoughts incessantly, we feel different every few hours and our roles are always in flux. One minute we play the role of a mother or father, a sister or brother, a boss or employee, a partner or friend, a doctor or lawyer. Our identity becomes a shifting version of a created self.
On top of that we add countless layers. We want to be loved. We crave to be accepted. We yearn for approval. To have a more acceptable, desirable body, we add a layer of make-up to our face. To have a more acceptable personality, we talk, think and act like our friends. We love one and hate another to not become the pariah. To fit in, to be loved, we become what others want us to become so they will believe we are worthy. Our sufficiency lies in another’s acceptance. This becomes a powerful layer of identity, a new level to a created self. We create an ever-changing identity and present this identity to the world as our authentic self. We believe we are this person we have created. This is our greatest misperception.
True identity is the fact of being who or what a person is. Authentic identity doesn’t change.
Authentic means of undisputed origin; genuine; essential; original. So, if we are in search of the authentic self we need to look beyond what is constantly changing and morphing. We identify as our body, thoughts and feelings and truly believe this is who we are. For most of us, becoming more authentic means becoming a better version of what we are creating, a more comfortable version, a more acceptable version. More authentic means going from fat to skinny, from poor to rich, from unsuccessful to successful. It’s still about getting a better name and form and attribute, about getting more love, acceptance and approval. But none of this gets us to the essential self. Who is this ‘You’ that is aware? Who watches the body age? Who witnesses the thoughts creating their stories? Who looks at those feelings rise and shift? Who is the seer who is seeing?
Underneath all of our identities lies something unchanging, essential, original and genuine. It is that awareness, that consciousness, that witness, that seer. We have covered it up, forgotten it. We are conditioned to experience and understand life through our conditioning and through our senses. Our senses are always outwardly oriented and our conditioning is attached to outcomes in the world of the body, mind and feelings. Because of this, we don’t stop and look within. We don’t realize the silent ocean of consciousness that is the source of all the waves of our ever-changing life and shifting identities.
It is the ocean that makes the waves. It is consciousness that makes the feelings, thoughts and body. But when we forget the unchanging, the original, the essential, the absolute intelligence and power that creates the relative, ever-changing world we live in, we create separation. Without our foundation and stability of knowing this awareness, this consciousness, we are left with a relative world of differences, other, contrast and judgment. We always feel this separation, this lack of foundation, this fear, this not quite fitting in.
We must quiet the waves of thoughts to experience the still ocean of consciousness. This is why we meditate. Awareness is the H2O that becomes ice, water and vapor. This consciousness is Source. It is our intelligence, our power, our existence, our understanding and the light of awareness. This is the true, fundamental, essential, authentic Self.